Thursday, 22 April 2010

Small Changes to Help Solve a Big Issue


Today is the fortieth anniversary of the first Earth Day. Our environment is something we tend to take for granted, but in reality we are utterly dependent on it. The fact that bees are disappearing, our climate is changing and resources are becoming more and more scarce is not something we can ignore. If we do, where will we be in another forty years time?

It’s easy to point fingers when it comes to environmental issues, and I have always felt that the fact my family and I fly a lot (out of necessity and choice - my extended family live abroad and I want to see the world), meant that I could hardly count myself as environmentally friendly. Indeed when I have put environmentally friendly tips up on the site before, readers have pointed this out. However one environmental campaigner I met put things in perspective. She explained that we all, out of necessity or choice, do things that might not benefit the environment. But it isn’t all or nothing when it comes to looking after this world. As she pointed out, I might fly a lot, but if I recycle, use energy saving bulbs and am aware of my energy use I am doing more than some people who don’t fly at all and do none of those things. And this is the point of my post for Earth Day. Even if you only do a little, do something. Even just one action can make a difference because if we all do something it obviously accomplishes a heck of a lot more than everyone just doing nothing. You don’t have to become someone who you are not, or change your whole life - but where you are today you can do things that will make a real difference.

Here are just a few of the things I do to help the environment. Most of them are things you could probably do too.

1. Recycle as much as I can.
I’m lucky to have curb-side recycling collection of many things in my area, but I also recycle anything else I possibly can, taking it to the recycling centre when I have enough (hopefully on the way to somewhere else so as not to waste a trip). In this house we recycle glass, plastic, paper, cardboard, garden waste, tetra-pac containers, clothing, shoes, printer cartridges and water filter cartridges. Items we no longer use we take to charity shops.

2. Buy carefully in the grocery store & not be tempted by things I won’t be able to use up.
Throwing away food does not make economic or environmental sense - and even if you got it on sale, if you throw it away, it’s throwing money - as well as resources - in the garbage. I make every attempt to buy just what I need, and not be tempted by “multi-buys” I can’t use in time. I use leftover or “past their best” vegetables to make yummy soups and my “bottom of the fridge” stir fries are famous.

3. Plan my car journeys so I accomplish as much as possible in as short a distance as possible.

4. Have an organic vegetable and fruit box delivered weekly.
This saves food miles and organic food production is not as hard on the environment. Oh, and the produce tastes amazing.

5. Grow some of my own vegetables as organically as possible.
I now have two raised vegetable beds that I am growing vegetables and herbs in. It won’t be enough for us to live on, but it will reduce what I have to buy and transport, and therefore my carbon footprint. Even if you only have a window-box you can grow salad leaves and herbs. Every little bit helps. I’ve also used plants that bees like in my flower garden to try to support local bee colonies.

6. Use coffee grounds as fertilizer in the garden.
They also repel slugs without harming the environment.

7. Support local farmer’s markets.

8. Use only energy saving lightbulbs.

9. Turn electrical items off standby when I am not using them.

10. Limit my use of my tumble dryer.
I love my tumble dryer - it makes clothes so soft and crease-free, and towels are just not the same dried outside. But at least three or four times a week I hang a couple loads of washing outside to dry, thus reducing my carbon footprint. (Choose the loads carefully because if you have to crank up the iron to de-crease things hung outside, it might have been better to tumble dry them in the first place. )

11. Use environmentally friendly cleaners in my home, and use natural products like vinegar, lemon and baking soda for cleaning.
Ecover and Method make some excellent, effective environmental cleaning products. I also use vinegar to de-scale kettles, wash floors and clean glass. Baking soda mixed with water is fantastic for cleaning out the fridge and making drains smell nice.

12. Think about my impact on the environment every day.
I make a concentrated effort to think about what I am doing to help (or hinder) the environment every day, not just on Earth Day. By recycling and using re-usable products (like drink containers) every day, using a water filter instead of buying bottled water wherever possible and making intelligent choices about what I buy, consume and throw away, I can make a difference.

It really isn’t all or nothing when it comes to the environment. Whoever you are, whatever your circumstances, just doing what you can to help save our planet can make a difference both today, and more importantly, tomorrow.


Check out the Earth Day website by clicking here or if you are a blogger join in the Bloggers Unite event for Earth Day by clicking here. And if times are very good in your house, check out Christie's “A Bid to Save the Earth” featuring donations of works by Jenny Holzer, Damien Hirst, Alan Sonsfist and Annie Leibovitz amongst others and the Silent Auction being held now until May 6th, featuring everything from works of art to a round of golf with Bill Clinton or dinner with Sigourney Weaver.

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